January 29, 2011

PAIN Part 2: The Pink Porcupine

Part 1, "An Introduction to the Subject of Pain"
Part 2, "My Personal Pain Story: The Pink Porcupine"
Part 3, "Creativity in the Midst of Pain"
Part 4, "What Others Have Written on Pain and Suffering"
Part 5, "Resources Related to Pain Management"

Please bookmark Appalachian Morning or click at this link to add it to your RSS Feed or Google Reader as I will update these posts from time to time. You can also follow along on posts by "liking" Appalachian Morning on Facebook.

Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist. physician, physiologist, or therapist. I have no medical or mental health training whatsoever. Therefore, no advice, medical or psychological, is intended or implied by any of the posts in this series on PAIN.

PAIN: The Pink Porcupine

"...we can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice." The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chodron

When was the first time you experienced pain? For me, it was in my ears, and this is curious as I grew up to give birth to a son who has struggled with a hearing disorder for nearly thirty years now and undergone two painful ear operations. I had horribly painful earaches (called "bealed ears") as a young girl (before age five). And, way back then there were no "tubes" to insert. The heating pad and late-night TV were my companions as I remember being up in the middle of the night, on the sofa, covered with a homemade afghan, the heating pad, and some long-forgotten program on the b/w television. To this day, I associate the smell of a heating pad with being a little girl.

The earaches felt like an ice pick, slowly pushing ever harder against my eardrum and radiating into my jaw, eye, and temple. The muffling of sound was accompanied by a thick, yellow liquid medicine (of which I can still remember the smell) that was not as gross as the liquid that stained my girlish pillowcase each morning when I awoke.

The earaches were the worst pain I'd felt in my young life and were, I realize now, an introduction to the pain that life can bring. When my parents loaded me in my flannel pajamas into the car for a ride to the hospital to have my tonsils out (as this was thought to perhaps help), I didn't worry about the surgery, I didn't know what surgery was. I kept my eyes focused on the shoebox on the front seat between my parents. In it was a surprise that I would get once settled in at the hospital: a Raggedy Ann doll. I can remember the anesthesiologist asking me what presents I received for Christmas and in the middle of my answer I fell into a deep sleep, had my tonsils removed and was never bothered by earaches again.

Just before my fourteenth birthday I came down with a nasty bout of mononeucleousis followed months later by a growth on the right side of my neck, between my jaw and collarbone. At Halloween that year I was in a semiprivate room having the abcess drained. I don't remember pain from this operation, but learn about pain I surely did, as the middle-aged woman sharing a room with my young self was undergoing an operation for hemmorhoids. She cried, and screamed, and cried and begged for relief, interspersing her moans with German words I didn't need an interpreter to understand. I promised myself to find out what on earth caused such a horrible condition so I would never have to have done to me whatever it was she had endured.

The following Halloween, at age 15, I was back in the hospital again for a repeated procedure to drain the abscess in my neck. I remember the pain associated with this period because the growth pressed against the year-old scar tissue of my previous surgery and felt like some alien creature was in my neck struggling to rip through my skin and break free.

It was hard enough being a skinny, flat-chested teenage girl with a big nose in a school with cliques galor, without also having a neck swollen on one side like a linebackers' physique, and after surgery a scar that looked like something from "The Bride of Frankenstein." I had already traded toe shoes for drawing pencils and a guitar, and it was a good thing for I spent a lot of time in bed, keeping myself occupied with various craft projects and learning new songs. In December the abscess returned and after putting up the Christmas tree, my parents and I trudged off to yet another hospital where the surgeon removed the tumor once and for all and carefully improved upon the scar left by the previous doctor. Today, it is only noticable if you're looking for it and is easily covered completely with make-up, but I still love wearing turtleneck sweaters.

A few years ago I woke up in the middle of the night ready to scream as it felt as if an ice pick was inserted in my right knee. I couldn't move or straighten my leg. Within seconds I practiced calmly breathing, rolled from side to back and slowly extended my knee, which then only ached mildly for a few hours. But it was terrifying. To be peacefully asleep and wake up in such excrutiating pain! And then it happened again, and again, and again. One night I felt that this was something I could not live with and I was becoming afraid to go to sleep at night. Newly married, my husband was being startled from his sleep by a screaming, sobbing wife.

But, it happened only once in a while, perhaps once a month at most. X-rays were done and showed a piece of floating bone. Surgery was scheduled, and while no floating bone piece was discovered by the surgeon, a good amount of arthritis was, and this was scraped out. A few months after the surgery, I had the stabbing pain at night again, though it was not as severe. I was disheartened. But, fortunately, it seems to have abated. I remain hopeful, but also empathetic every time I see someone with their leg in a brace, indicating recent injury or surgery. To me, this was on a level of Jack Bauer-related torture, and I'm afraid I would give up all State secrets fairly quickly.

This past month I have had a painful infection (facial cellulitis prompted by an infected tooth in my lower jaw), and now I am starting to see pain as an entity, separate from myself but often attaching itself to me . . . going along with me through several periods of my life. Popping up, like an unwanted houseguest, at the most inopportune moments and always staying longer than expected. When it takes its leave, I am so grateful and eager to forget it that I mentally push the experience deep into the trash compactor of my subconscious so that I can refocus on beautiful, happy, fun, interesting things such as painting and writing and my family and pets and trees and snow and baking.

Then, for reasons that seem to have something to do with genetics or bad luck, pain shows up again just as I've really started to forget about it, and I am forced to prioritize and juggle all the wonderful things I love with this big pink porcupine of pain metaphorically (or literally) on my back.

I've wondered if there is some unconscious draw within me that beckons pain and illness to come closer and stay awhile. Do I feel that I have so many blessings in life that I must pay for them by an equal does of pain? Do I feel guilty for having a home, a good marriage, two grown sons, enough to eat, a fulfilling career, and pretty much everything I want, and thereby unconsciously assuage this guilt by getting sick? I don't think that is it, for I've had times in my life where things were very tough financially and in other ways too. I don't feel the world owes me the good things I enjoy now, but I don't feel guilty about having them either. Like most people have been through a lot and come out all right; I'm happy with where I am in life.

Could my frequent visits from pain-the-entity be a result of genetics? Does pain keep a record of family trees, visiting one generation then the next? My father had some of the same achey-breaky conditions that plague me. Dad had the back, joint, and lung issues, for instance. His parents died when he was three (his dad) and four (his mom) of respiratory or viral illnesses. Asthma, arthritis, and allergies run in my family...as in run toward us.

And my eldest son has had more than any child's fair share of pain, which has caused not a little psychological pain for me. Watching your child endure is a particular kind of torture, I think. It is of some comfort that his disability involves a sensory disorder, and he seems to take illnesses that would bring me to my knees in his stride. Through six years of wound care to his legs, through many issues with his teeth and operations on his ears as well as a progressive hearing loss, even through a severe beating several years ago, he plods forward with his life, seldom complaining of pain or discomfort. It is almost a gift, how he seems to feel so little. But when I see the nurse unwrap his lower legs and stare at six years of seldom-healed wounds and scars from a condition that seems particularly unkind on the body of a young man with so many challenges already, I blanche and feel as if I might faint. I have had to learn how to adopt the matter-of-fact attitude of his nurse, of himself. It has not been easy for this queasy mother to do.

When I decided to write on this blog about pain, I did so to learn more about it and also to reach out to others who share this aspect of life. For some reason, in the midst of pain, I wanted to battle it by going deeper into the subject. I was in the middle of a painful week with facial cellulitis, an illness the endodontist described as possibly "life threatening," bumbling my way through each workday with the help of Tylenol 3 and icepacks held up with pillows against my swollen face while I sat on the couch and drew or typed or read. I was not allowed to lie down to sleep, and this bothered me more than I expected. The antibiotics and other medications played havoc with my sleeping schedule, and I found myself staring at my laptop's keyboard in the wee hours of the morning, wanting only to drink coffee and write.

I began to make a list of "all the stupid painful illnesses and procedures I've had in a half-century of life." (When you are unwell, you feel "half-a-century" old; when you are well, you feel, oh, "a bit past forty.") When I compiled the list, then healed from cellulitis, then looked at the list again, I realized the particulars did not matter. What brought the pain doesn't matter. What matters is that it was there and what it has taught me about being human, being mortal. So, I will spare you a list and ask you to trust me when I say, I know what it is like to feel pain so intense you wonder how you will face another day, but you want that day so much that you hang on and come out the other side. Fortunately for me, I have never gotten to the point of not wanting that next day, and the hope it might bring, to arrive. But I've come close enough to it to understand how powerful and all-encompasing pain can be.

Painful illnesses accompanied me as I raised children, moved from FL to OH, worked at my business, wrote books and painted and embarked on a thousand wonderful, life-affirming things. In other words, though pain is sometimes there, it is not all that's there, and I find that comforting.

Pain, I realized recently, is almost like an entity, a character, in the play of my life. If I had to draw it, I would draw it as a pink porcupine. Pink, because I love the color, and a porcupine because no one really wants to hold a porcupine very close at all. The pink porcupine might have been on my back (or various places within my body), at times, but at other times it wasn't there at all. It did not define me, and after each challenge I was able to move along toward more comfortable times. I say this not to brag, but to express thankfulness and impart encouragement. I have long been a fan of Sarah Ban Breathnach and her Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude as well as Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. Writing down and thinking about the many blessings I've enjoyed in my life, have worked like a vitamin to hold me up during times of pain, to give me hope, to help me avoid self-pity.

Most of the pain I've experienced as an adult has consisted of either a dull, chronic ache and discomfort or an acute, sharp, intense pain that, thankfully, eventually, ends. It may take days, or weeks, or months, but it does end and seldom is pain so bad that it prevents me from doing my work, which I enjoy and find much comfort as I escape within the demands of it. (Working for myself really helps in this regard.)

Each time pain visits, part of me fears: What if it doesn't end? What if this is really something I'll have to live with for the rest of my life?" And I understand now that many people do live with a condition that is so painful it permeates everything they undertake, everything they hope for and want. I am humbled knowing the strength of the human spirit to endure what seems impossible to handle.

As I mentioned in Part 1, there seems to be a stigma associated with admitting to being in pain. The person who handles it with stoicism ("repression of emotion and indifference to pleasure or pain" ~Random House Dictionary) is respected more than someone who, in mentioning pain or illness, is seen as a complainer or whiner or weak person. Most all of us want to be that stoic person, but find it difficult and so add guilt to everything else we are feeling mentally and physically when ill. We seperate not only from deepest emotions, but from our loved ones who struggle, also, with feelings of guilt and powerlessness.

There must be a balance of honesty about our situation and the use of coping mechanisms that can channel all the emotions and thoughts we dredge up when we are being honest. And this is where creativity comes in. This is what we'll look at in Part 3.

Janice Phelps Williams

January 23, 2011

Travel Ohio: Part 2

I will continue the 5-part series on PAIN with Part 2 later this week. (Here is a link to Part 1).

Tonight, though, I wanted to post the photos I took today when driving from Athens (Ohio) west to Jackson (Rt. 32), north to Chillicothe northwest to Washington Court House (Rt. 35), then east to Williamsport and Circleville and onto Lancaster (Rt. 22), then south and back to Athens (Rt. 33). A 4-hour jaunt in a wide loop in the south-central portion of Ohio. A trip that takes you from hills to flat farmland and back to hills again.

Recently, I posted photos from the same route, and you can see them here at this link. Today I decided to look closer, what else could I see on this route I've traveled so often. (I've traveled the portion of this trip on Route 22 two to four times a month for nearly 10 years.)

In chronological order, here is what I noticed on today's trip: Sunday, January 23, 2011. Temperature: It was a high of 24 degrees F today, and that felt warmer than the 0 of yesterday. An "Artic mass" is hovering over the Northeast; we have had it as well. Strangely though, I've always found I could get really good, crisp photos in weather like this.

The first photo, at the top of this post, is Rt 32 from Athens to Jackson. It is also called the "Appalachian Highway." As I leave Athens, traveling west, I take in the wide vista, the trees and hills, and light traffic. Also, a great blessing on Sunday mornings, is the 3-hour show on WOUB called "Below the Salt." It is my favorite radio program as each hour-long playlist centers around a theme for that day. Unfortunately, Below the Salt no longer archives its programs, but you can see the cool playlists at this link.

Above: Rt. 32. Shark!

Turning north now on Rt. 35 from Jackson to Chillicothe. I like the patterns that reveal themselves in the wintertime.

Above: Here are the hills in the distance (Rt. 35, S of Chillicothe.)

I have always been attracted to mechanical/industrial buildings. This is on a side road south of Washington Court House.

Here is the abandoned Country Inn, Washington Court House.

There are many beautiful brick houses in this part of Ohio. Often with tree-lined drives. I think about the earlier generations of people who planted these trees, who built these houses. I wonder what their lives were like, and how they must have treasured their land . . .

I do not know if the "Mugs 'n Jugs" Draft House draws a crowd on Saturday night. I find the blue shutters a curious touch.

I am drawn to repetitive images and patterns, and from a line of parked trucks, these two seemed to want their photo taken. Later, I noticed the water tower...

You might think all that are in these small towns are abandoned, derelict buildings, but not so. I am drawn to photograph them, that is all. I like the textures on the outside of the buildings, the layers of paint, the patterns of stone or brick, the crookedy windows and tottering chimneys, the whispers of history sifting through the broken slats where small birds and bats now reside.

A detour down a side street in Washington Court House revealed this sturdy brick home. It is on a residential street with houses close by. I wonder how much it costs to heat this old home, and if they have updated the interior.

The yellow color of this house initially caught my attention. Then I backed the car up into a side road so I could get a photo of the roof and these many birds seeking warmth on a frigid day.

I have passed this beautiful yellow house many times in all seasons of the year.

There are so many silos on these roads. Yet each set seems unique.

This garage is a perky shade of yellow and I like the windows. At the scrapbooking workshop I was at yesterday, the teacher had a punch that would punch out this same pattern. Perhaps that's why this caught my eye.

Leaving Washington Court House now on Rt. 22, I passed an agricultural equipment business that is "opening soon." Here is a cool vehicle of unknown use (well, unknown to me). Want to "harvest" a guess?

Just a simple farm on Rt. 22.

I bet this barn was beautiful when it was first built. It's too bad these old barns are left to deteriorate so. I wish they were were kept in ship-shape and filled with cows, horses, and children playing in the hayloft.

This would have been a better photo without my side mirror, but this was taken on a road off the highway and I didn't want to attract attention, so was hurrying. What captured me about this photo was the fact that the people living in this house had quite a sight out their windows. I would not like living next to this many silos.

I took a photo of this building above, because I noticed all the materials that someone had used to build it (are there no codes about this sort of thing?)... But then...

...as I got closer, I saw the master of the house sitting, staring at me. Daring me to criticize his fine abode.

Here is a very full shed under a pretty tree.

In my last post on this subject, I included a photo of one large metal "lady in a dress" -- which is what these structures remind me of. Here is the entire chorus line, above.

Continuing on Rt. 22, just west of Williamsport (a very small, 2-traffic-light town) I wanted to get a photo of this business, which, in the summertime, typically has a lot of bicycles for sale (located as it is across from the town's ice cream store). I went around the block and came at it from the back, so as not to attract attention. I saw that even in the winter this businessman was hard at work in his garage.

On the side road, I noticed these trees and wondered why they were disfigured like this. Then I noticed something even curiouser . . . a set of metal stairs leading to nowhere. And then I started to worry about small children climbing them. Honestly, Williamsport doesn't seem to have any building codes at all!

In 2003, one barn in each of Ohio's counties was painted in honor of the Bicentennial. I have a copy of a "Bicentennial Barns of Ohio" by Christina Wilkinsin on my bookshelf, having met the author at a book fair and signing a few years ago.

On a residential street of small houses, the cars were parked very close to each other. And in front of one small house, a very big bus!

This is my favorite photo of this day's road trip. It is of the "Christian Cemetery" in Williamsport. Just off a side road, not even a block from Rt. 22, I had never seen it until today! It is on S. Water Street, right along the banks of the river (I'm not sure of the river's name, it might be the Scioto). This cemetery only contains burials until 1883, and on the historical marker it states that therein are buried veterans from the American Revolution (2); the Mexican War (3, I believe); the War of 1812 (several); and the Civil War (several). The veterans names are given as well.

Entering the town of Circleville (home of a popular Pumpkin Festival each October), one will encounter the Hippie Hut, open even on Sundays.

I liked this blue and white house.

Here is the Pickaway County Courthouse. Very typical style of courthouses in these less-populated Ohio counties.

In my previous post, I showed a straight-on photo of the "Elders" -- trees that I nicknamed thus because they always looked so wise and regal to me. Here they are approaching them from the west. Do you see why I have named them?

Leaving Circleville, one can't help but notice "Scoops." I sometimes pull through the drive-thru in the summertime for a treat.

I believe this is "Tootles Pumpkin Inn."

Here is a second-hand clothing store. They always have fancy dresses outside, though I wonder how many shoppers they'd have on a Sunday afternoon, as most businesses in this area of town are not open on Sundays.

Here is the Ted Lewis Museum. "Is everybody happy?"

From Circleville, Rt. 22 heads toward Lancaster, but I veer off on the Rt. 33 bypass toward Logan, Nelsonville, and Athens. On that segment of Rt. 33 the land goes from gentle hills to steeper inclines, rock formations, the Hocking Hills, land near Wayne National Forest and down to our college town of Athens, where the Hocking River was illuminated at sunset by the street lamps lining this portion of a 17-mile bike path. I always feel happy to come back to Athens. Above is the front of the Ohio University Inn. This is where we recommend visitors stay, and Mark and I enjoy many meals in their delicious restaurant.

All photos copyright 2011 by Janice Phelps Williams. All rights reserved.

January 19, 2011

PAIN Part 1: Introduction to the Subject of Pain

acute or chronic.

I've been in a fair amount of acute physical pain over the last seven weeks. Thankfully, it has now skulked away, mumbling the brand name of my antibiotic and shaking its fist. I injured my back at the end of November, and it was just healing up and not constantly reminding me of the foolish move I'd made (trying to lift up an elderly friend), when I came down a week ago with an abcessed tooth. Overnight it progressed to facial cellulitis, a painful, serious infection that ebbed its way out of my jaw, chin and cheek thanks to the miracle of modern medicine.

I've had periods of both acute and chronic pain at other times in my life as well, and while I've written about my childhood, my children, surgeries, my business, my love of Ohio and art and crafts and books... I've never written about pain until now.

Outside of the medical community, pain seems to be a "hush-hush" subject. To talk about it, to admit to experiencing it, implies a degree of wimpishness, of self-centered attention-seeking impropriety even. For men, there are even more societal pressures to "put up and shut up" when it comes to pain and all sorts of cliches such as "take it like a man" and "Don't be a sissy." As children, when we said, "It hurts!" our parents may have countered with: "Now, don't make a big deal out of it. It's not that bad." Parents may be so afraid of raising a whiney child that their only course of action is to negate feelings and discourage further discussion.

Fortunately, although I spent a year and a half of my high school education ill and undergoing three surguries, my parents did everything right. Looking back now, as a mother myself, I marvel at how they offered to me the right mix of empathy and confidence in my ability to cope. They took my complaints and concerns seriously, yet never babied or spoiled me, though I'm sure at times it might have been tempting to do so, as I was the only child still at home and was introverted and sensitive by nature.

When bringing up my artistic leanings in conversations with others, my mother often mentioned how, when waiting for surgery at age fifteen, I asked for pen and paper and created a little chess set so I could play the game with my father and pass time while coping with pain and waiting for the operating room to free up so the surgeon could relieve pressure in my swollen neck (from a benign tumor). What Mom doesn't mention is that she and Dad were the sort of parents who encouraged my creativity and gave me the pen and paper and played the game with me as if these were good solutions to a stressful situation.

In the adult world, it seems we don't trust ourselves or others to mention, admit to, or discuss pain and illness for fear of giving into it entirely and letting its presence control our lives and keep us from the good health we all hope to experience. But perhaps that is the wrong approach. Perhaps silence only empowers pain; by trying so hard not to mention it, we end up screaming about it in less psychologically healthy ways. While no one but immediate family wants to listen to in-depth, descriptions of illness or medical procedures, that verbal faux pas is a far cry from stating the truth:

  • "I'm in pain, but finding ways to cope."
  • "I've been ill, but am on the mend..."
  • "I am doing much better thank you; but it was pretty awful."

(Of course, in work environments there are reasons not to share health information, but I am talking about discussions between friends and those in one's social circle.)

All posts on this topic:

Part 1, "An Introduction to the Subject of Pain"
Part 2, "My Personal Pain Story: The Pink Porcupine"
Part 3, "Creativity in the Midst of Pain"
Part 4, "What Others Have Written on Pain and Suffering"
Part 5, "Resources Related to Pain Management"

Please bookmark Appalachian Morning or click at this link to add it to your RSS Feed or Google Reader as I will update these posts from time to time. You can also follow along on posts by "liking" Appalachian Morning on Facebook.

Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist. physician, physiologist, or therapist. I have no medical or mental health training whatsoever. Therefore, no advice, medical or psychological, is intended or implied by any of the posts in this series on PAIN.

January 8, 2011

$24-worth of 50-cent books!

So, here it is a wintery Saturday. Snow is falling, the roads are dicey, but first thing this morning we made our way to the library for the book sale. One of my favorite things ever. It's more like a book giveaway because most of the books are only 50 cents, and a few are marked $1 or $2 or $5...but still.

Want to hear what I bought for just under $24?

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (c. 1925) (because it is the next book to be read in the book club I am in here in Athens)
  • My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin (1980). Have you ever seen this movie? It was on TV years ago and I loved it. "Miles Franklin's irrepressible, exuberant story of a young woman's coming of age in turn-of-the-century Australia."

  • The Family of Man (c. 1955) "The greatest photographic exhibition of all time--503 pictures from 68 countries--created by Edward Steichen for The Museum of Modern Art." This will actually be my third copy of this book. I have one in the house already, and the one that I had years ago, in high school, was lost along the way of life... But this book deeply moved me as a teenager and I have never forgotten the strength of the human spirit evident in these black-and-white photographs. I learned a lot about life outside of my small town from studying these photos.
  • The Family of Children (c. 1977) I never even knew about this book! "Childhood around the world -- the greatest photographic collection ever made." It is dedicated to Edward Steichen and the design of the book is similar to the previous one, The Family of Man.

  • Her Fork in the Road: Women Celebrate Food and Travel edited by Lisa Bach (c. 2001) "Women's relationship with food is as nuanced as our most intriguing journeys: passionate and obsessive; embracing and comforting; complex and frustrating; even surprising. This savory sampling of stories journeys across borders and cultures to the heart of this age-old relationship--from familiar kitchens to the globe's far reaches. (Yes, for only $1!)

  • Eyewitness Travel Guides: France. I love Eyewitness books and can't pass up their wonderful descriptions and photos. I'm all set now to go to France!

  • Anonymous was a Woman by Mirra Bank: (c. 1979) "A celebration in words and images of traditional American art--and the women who made it." (I do hope the library has a copy of this in their collection! I hate to think they sold their only copy of it!)

  • Thread of Life: The Smithsonian Looks at Evolution by Roger Lewin (hardcover, c. 1982). This will be helpful for me if I ever take the time to work on my novel about a fantastic world.

  • While My Sister Sleeps by Barbara Delinsky (c. 2009)

  • Klimt by Gilles Neret (c. 2000) A beautiful slim hardcover book.

  • Open House by Elizabeth Berg (c. 2000) One of my favorite writers and now I have this in hardcover.

  • Body Surfing by Anita Shreve (c. 2007)

  • Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell (c. 2008) "Maria Doria Russell illuminates the long, rich history of the Middle East with a story that brilliantly elucidates today's headlines."
  • Songs without Words by Ann Packer (c. 2007) I ran Packer's The Dive from Clausen's Pier and it was very good.

  • Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman (c. 1997) Oprah's Book Club pick

  • The Best American Nonrequired Reading edited by Dave Eggers (c. 2005) If Dave Eggers' name is on it, it's got to be good!

  • The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paulo Giordano (c. 2010 American edition) Lots of great reviews noted on the back of this book. And only $1.00! Who didn't hold onto this baby and treasure it?

  • Fabric Gardens: An International Exhibition of Quilts at Expo '90. The first book in my library written in Japanese and English. Full of beautiful photos! I may give this one away to a quilter...

  • Terrariums & Miniature Gardens by Sunset Books/Magazines (c. 1973) This is a pretty old book, but I doubt setting up a terrarium has changed all that much. I've always loved them and would like to make a few this summer, since gardening is pretty much off-limits for me with my bee-sting allergy.

  • Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah (c. 2010). I'd seen this one in a catalog and wanted to get it, now I have for only $2! I may start reading it today!

  • The River King by Alice Hoffman (c.2000). I have never read Alice Hoffman. Can you believe it?

  • Stealing Buddha's Dinner: A Memoir by Bich Min Nguyen. (c. 2007) "Beginning with her family's harrowing migration out of Saigon in 1975, Stealing Buddha's Dinner follows Bich Nguyen as she comes of age in the pre-PC-era Midwest. Filled with a rapacious hunger for American identity, Nguyen's desire to belong transmutes into a passion for American food..." I love books that teach me about other cultures while entertaining me. This book is a slim paperback, A Penguin Book Memoir, sold for $15.00. I got it for $1.00. It looks brand new!

  • Design Essentials (c. 1992) A bit outdated for a software book, but it's in color and I need to learn more about Illustrator; I'm sure there are techniques I haven't tried yet!
  • American Sketches: Great Leaders, Creative Thinkers, and Heroes of a Hurricane by Walter Isaacson (c. 2009) I'm really looking forward to reading this.

Well, that does it. Pretty good for $24 and some change, wasn't it? I only wish you could have gone to the sale with us, and then we could have looked at each other's books at the table at the Village Bakery while eating Esmeralda Salad and drinking mango soda, then topping it all off with apricot bars.

Have a great weekend,

Janice Phelps Williams